During my talk I mentioned (among many other things) how hard it was to produce TV shows that focus even in the most obtuse way on the engineering world, on the future of technology and how we produce and consume the vast amounts of energy we get through.
When I suggested, as a cheap throw away gag, that there was probably already enough shows on the television about cooking and singing, the round of applause and the cheer this comment generated was surprising. Not the fact that the idea was recognised, but that the cheer had such force, I could almost describe it as fury.
How many chefs and singers does this country need? That was really all I asked.
The answer is glaringly obvious, about 400,000 less than we already have.
How many engineers, technicians and CAD enabled designers do we need? About 2 million more than we’ve got.
So the question then is, does television make any difference, if our young people are watching a diet of talent shows and radical cookery programs does that really have any effect on what they might consider doing as adults?
I personally doubt that it has anything like the level of influence the paranoid might claim, or the broadcasters might hope. Most people know those shows are ephemera and forgotten within seconds of them finishing.
Would a raft of prime time entertaining and educational shows about engineering, research into new materials, breakthroughs in design and technology make a massive difference?
Again I doubt it, but it might create a slightly better balance. Just maybe a few more school leavers would be talking about going into research, engineering and design than waiting in endless tragic lines outside a theatre in Droitwich hoping for their 4.2 seconds of ‘fame’ courtesy of some old pillocks with dyed hair and a staggering level of self importance.
This is of course one of the reasons I am making Fully Charged for internet distribution, thankfully it's not only been fun to do but is steadily building an audience.
Yesterday I attended an event in a beautiful old library next to the enormous and seemingly endless European Parliament buildings.
An array of electric vehicles was parked outside the entrance which gave a clue to the subject under discussion, there were many men in suits in attendance, there were also many smartly dressed women and there was an old bloke who’d scrubbed up as best he could. That was me.
The discussion was fascinating, illuminating, encouraging and sometimes depressing, realistic, hopeful and generally optimistic. However, more than anything else it was a group of people from all over Europe thinking long term.
Not, how do we win an election this year, how do we stay in power for another 6 months, what compromises and backroom deals can we strike that will shit all over everything but keep us in office for the next 3 days.
Proper long-term thinking.
The talk, sponsored by Renault-Nissan, was titled “Electrifying road transport: between now and 2050” and was part of European Sustainable Energy Week, which, judging by the massive posters all over Brussels is a fairly high profile event.
There were people from the UN, the EC, the UK government, obviously Renault and Nissan, the electricity generating sector, people representing the World Health Organisation who’s recent report on the carcinogenic properties of diesel fumes have yet to make the truly shocking impact they should, some wonderful people from Oslo where electric vehicles have really taken off in a big way, and an old bloke from England who’d scrubbed up as best he could.
I won’t go into the massively complex detail of the discussions, the political decisions that need to be made to make anything resembling sustainable transport in Europe a reality, the pitfalls, the complacency, public ignorance, the coming changes in the supply of oil, the deliberate and very well funded efforts by the traditional energy supply corporations (coal, gas and oil) to do all they can to delay the implementation etc etc.
We all know about that, well, we all should know about that but as I’m sure you’ll agree, the vast majority of people in the UK know far more about Sheryl Cole and whether she’ll be a judge in the next TV series where smug pillocks judge poor people who try to sing than they do about the looming energy crisis, but hey ho. Head, sand, la-de-da.
What was encouraging overall was that everyone attending agreed that by 2050, all cars will be electric, the small internal combustion engines days are numbered. The cost of electric cars will fall, the implementation of a public charging infrastructure will increase, models of charging for electricity for cars will develop.
(There is no charge for electricity for the many thousands of electric cars in Olso, all the public charging and parking is free and you can drive electric cars along bus lanes, and guess what, electric car sales are through the roof)
Within a few years there will be zero emission zones in many European cities, this means you will not be able to take any car which emits fumes into a city centre, no, not even a Prius or Ampera/Volt.
Models of car ownership will change dramatically due to developments in technology, more people will walk and cycle and use public transport, our cities will be cleaner and quieter and more pleasant to live in and we won’t be dependent on outside sources and forces for our energy requirements.
So all in all, it was very uplifting.